By now you’ve heard about Bisphenol A (BPA), the hormone mimicking chemical linked to cancer. It has been found on dollar bills, canned foods , and cash register receipts. According to The New York Times , there’s more bad news-another carcinogen, formaldehyde, could be lurking in and on our wrinkle-free products including: clothing, curtains, sheets and pillow cases, crib sheets, and baseball caps.
I can still smell the formaldehyde from my high school biology class-preserving that creepy tarantula in a jar. Formaldehyde is used to make clothing wrinkle-free and stain resistant by either soaking the fabric in formaldehyde or exposing the fabric to formaldehyde gases, and then baking the fabric at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. It prevents the fibers in the fabric from wrinkling after being washed.
Wrinkle-free clothing is offered by almost every big retailer- a dream come true for the traveler and for those of us with iron phobia. Big names such as Nordstrom and L.L. Bean offer many no-iron options.
A recent study by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of congress, investigated the levels of formaldehyde in 180 different types of products. They found that over 5% of the products tested were treated with an unacceptable amount of resin that releases formaldehyde. Most of the items in the 5% were wrinkle-free products such as sheets, shirts and pants.
So why the $%^&*@# is formaldehyde on our clothing and in other household products?
The scary truth is that the United States does not regulate formaldehyde levels in clothing, most of which is now made overseas. The government has no requirement for any sort of disclosure to the consumer when formaldehyde is used.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF FORMALDEHYDE?
According to the National Cancer Institute, Formaldehyde has been classified as a human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO REDUCE EXPOSURE TO FORMALDEHYDE?
- Don’t buy wrinkle-free or “ready-to-wear” anything. FYI Men’s shirts had some of the highest occurrences of formaldehyde.
- ALWAYS wash clothing, bedding and curtains before using.
- Avoid buying furniture that has been glued with formaldehyde-based glue and is painted with formaldehyde laden paint.
- There are companies out there that don’t use formaldehyde-contact manufacturers directly to see if they use it and support those that don’t.
- There needs to be a requirement for the disclosure of the use of formaldehyde in our clothing and other household products just as much as we have the right to know the ingredients in our food. Time to put on the ol’ legal hat and start writing to those that can make a difference. Anyone care to join?
For now, I’m thinking about busting out that iron and getting to work. My kids have only seen an iron used with Perler Beads.
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*Top photo used under Creative Commons from Boujiandnouna